Tag Archives: Wantage Road

Victorian Migration to Lee – Southbrook Road

A few months ago, Running Past covered migration to one of the working-class streets in Lee, Robertson Street, which was renamed in the 1880s and is now Brightfield Road. It was always the intention to look at look at some of the wealthier streets of Lee to see what the differences were. The homes we’ll look at this time are in Southbrook Road which were featured in an Edwardian postcard and, in 1881, would have been London suburbia.

The development of Southbrook Road had started at around the same time as the railway came to Lee – the station opened on 1 September 1866.  The houses at the Burnt Ash Road end of the street seem to have been built just ahead of this. 8 Southbrook Road was sold at auction with a lease of 74 years in 1889 – on the assumption that it was on a 99-year lease, it presumably had been built around 1864. As an aside, the rent was just £35 a year (1).

Like many Lee street names, the naming relates to the Baring family, who were Lords of the Manor; in 1866 the ‘Lord’ would just have been Francis Baring, the 1st Baron Northbrook. Southbrook, like Northbrook and Micheldever, they were parts of the family estate in Hampshire (2).  

The houses in the postcard seem to be on the ‘even’ side to the west of Wantage Road, with Manor Lane in the background.  If this assumption is correct, in the 1881 census, the houses pictured had relatively recently been sold and/or let, those at the Manor Lane end were still under construction.  In the 1881 census on the ‘even’ side while 32 to 48 had been let, 50 to 52 were noted as being ‘unoccupied.’  On the opposite side of the road 33 – 45 had been completed and, apart from 41 which was unoccupied all let or bought.  One of the houses in this group was sold for £710 in 1879.

The houses had been built by John Pound, who we’ve covered several times before.  It seems that they were finished off by John Urquhart Allan, an Aberdonian builder who was living at 26 Taunton Road In 1881. He’d arrived via Croydon, where he’d married Harriet from Dorset.  However, Allen wasn’t to emulate John Pound in terms of creating a large building empire, although the reason for his professional demise was the same – bankruptcy (3). Allan moved to north west London and restarted in his original trade, a carpenter; he stayed there until his death in 1915.

In the main, these were homes for young professionals – only two homes were ‘headed’ by someone over 37. Interestingly, two thirds of this group of households had extended families living with them. This is not a pattern noticed to any significant extent when looking at Victorian census data in the larger houses of Lee for other posts. Indeed, a decade later in the same houses it was quite uncommon.

The same style of houses had already been built to the east of Wantage Road – from electoral registers that are available on-line, it appears that there may have been sold and/or let let from around 1875. In these earlier houses there were fewer extended households and heads of household slightly older. One of those residents of the slightly older houses was someone we have come across before, William Marks, one of the founders of Northbrook Cricket Club.

This post will look at numbers 24-48 evens and 23-45 odds. For the purposes of tracking the ‘immigration’ to Lee we’ll look at the Head of household and their partner as one group (44 people), their children (32) as another group and their servants (26) as a third group. Disappointingly, some of the detail is absent with a small number of birthplaces – for example, details on the Swifts at 36 were reduced to England and a couple of others just London, such as the Mathams at 33 – although other data for them suggests they came from the City of London.

Looking first at the household heads and their partners; there are some significant differences to the working-class households of Robertson Street, later Brightfield Road.  As can be seen from the map above, none of the Southbrook Road residents had been born in Lee or Lewisham (it had been 16% in Robertson Street), while there were a fair number from the rest of London – in total 40% were Londoners, this was around 9% less than in the nearby working-class housing. A slightly smaller proportion came from the neighbouring counties of Kent and Surrey than in Robertson Street. 

Here the similarities end.  With Robertson Street many had come from rural communities in East Anglia; in Southbrook Road the none came from those areas.  Instead, the roots of 14% were in the south west of England, particularly Devon.  Another major different was the number with birthplaces in the Empire (14%); these included County Down and Dublin in Ireland, one from what is now Cape Town and two who were born in Jamaica (these are excluded from the map).  It is, of course, possible that the latter group may have been Black Caribbean, rather than there with trade or the colonial service, but this is much less likely but difficult to be certain about as ethnicity wasn’t recorded until the 1991 census.  

There were 32 children in the homes, this excludes three boarders and another child that was being looked after for a relative.  The data is somewhat skewed by one large household that had seven children all born in what is now Cape Town.   Of the other 25, 10 were born in Lee and 12 elsewhere in London – mainly in neighbouring areas such as Eltham, Camberwell and New Cross – indicating the stopping off points in the journey to Lee. 

William Marks was a silk merchant and his journey to 1881 Lee was shorter than many of the household heads – born in 1822 in Sheerness, his wife Jane came from Gravesend. Their children had all ‘flown the nest’ by 1881 but they’d been in Stepney in 1852 and Charlton by 1859 where they remained until a move to Lee around 1875 – he was on the electoral register in Lee then.

Martha Pollard was 34 in 1881 and was one of the more locally born residents, hailing from Woolwich.  She was married to John Pollard who was 52 in 1881 and came from Devonport, now part of Plymouth.  There is nothing obvious between his birth and the 1871 Census when the couple were living in Camberwell, he was working as a clerk at Somerset House.  They seem to have had several children when living in Camberwell, at least two of which weren’t on the census in 1881 (they could have been away from the property on census night).  They’d moved to Lee around 1876 as a daughter was born there.

As was common in the larger houses of the area, most of the houses had servants – the patterns of migration were much more similar to the working-class housing of Robertson Street, most were from London and the southeast, with a handful from the south west and Wales.

While not that much can be drawn into a small number of households in a couple of Lee streets, it certainly appears that the wealthier in Lee typically came from further away than their working-class counterparts.

And finally …. the view from about the same location as the postcard is not that different in early 2022 to that of over a hundred years before – the horse and cart has been replaced by a car but much else is similar due to the availability of off-street parking in the large front gardens.

Notes

  1. Kentish Mercury 19 July 1889
  2. Joan Read (1990) Lewisham Street Names and their Origins p50
  3. Kentish Mercury 11 December 1885

Credits

  • The postcard is from eBay in May 2020
  • The census and related data come via Find My Past (subscription required)
  • The maps are created using census data over Google Maps
  • The confirmation of the builders and the 1879 purchase price comes from the deeds of one of the houses.

One Night in the Blitz – the Air Raids on Lewisham of 8 December 1940

Last year Running Past looked at two of the most intense nights of World War Two bombing in Lee on the 27 and 29 December 1940.  We turn our attention to a night earlier in December 1940 when Lee, Hither Green and parts of the Corbett Estate were again hit  – the night of 8-9 December 1940 – most of the bombs fell in a short period around 11:00 pm on the Sunday evening.   

As was the case with the raids almost three weeks later, Lee wasn’t the real target and was a stopping off point on a major raid on London during which German bombers dropped over 380 tons of high explosive bombs and at least 115,000 incendiaries. 250 Londoners were killed on 8 December and 600 more seriously injured. Several streets in Lee, such as Brightfield Road (below), were hit in both raids.

As we have found with other posts on the Blitz, including the first night and the raids on 27 December and 29 December 1940, it is worth remembering that not every incident was reported to the Air Raid Precautions (ARP) HQ at Lewisham Town Hall, some being just reported to the Fire Brigade but others never going through official channels. This is particularly the case with incendiary bombs which residents were often able to put out themselves.

This particular night was clearly chaotic at the ARP HQ with some incidents clearly being reported and/or written up several times – as far as possible the narrative and maps have attempted to strip out the duplicates. There were around 70 incidents reported in just Lee, Hither Green and the Corbett Estate with no doubt lots not reported and large numbers elsewhere in the old Borough of Lewisham.

So, what were incendiary bombs? They were cylindrical bombs around 35cm long, and 5cm in diameter. Inside was a mechanism that ignited an incendiary compound that filled the cylinder, thermite, on impact. They were often dropped in ‘breadbaskets’ typically containing 72 incendiaries.

There appear to have been at least three ‘breadbaskets’ dropped on Lee at around 10:50 pm– one around Wantage Road, another on Burnt Ash Road, although the numbers were smaller there and a third around Brightfield Road. There were around 70 incendiaries that the ARP logged – with most, the note on the log was ‘fire put out without significant damage to property.’ The fires in Brightfield Road were of a different class to those elsewhere though– the ARP log noted that they were ‘distinguished’ – presumably a typo. Several of the houses in the postcard above were hit, whilst the photograph was taken over 30 years before, the street scene, that much will not have changed by 1940. The locations recorded from the raid in Lee are mapped below.

There were relatively few injuries – those that there were tended to be from the aftermath and/or trying to put out fires – four were injured in Burnt Ash Road, including a child who was blinded at 90 Burnt Ash Road and an ARP warden was injured in Micheldever Road.

At around the same time as incendiaries rained down on Lee several were dropped around what was then Campshill House in Hither Green Lane, Ryecroft and Campshill Roads (at the top of the map below).  A few minutes later there were a couple in the streets to the north of Brownhill Road – Ardgowan and Springbank Roads (there is a separate post on attacks on Springbank Road.) There were also incendiaries dropped in Fernbrook Road – 67 and 101 were both damaged along with another two at 127 Manor Park and Leahurst Road area (see Lee map above).  No doubt a few more fell but weren’t recorded.

At about 11:05 it seems that a ‘breadbasket’ was dropped on the eastern side of the Corbett estate with several hits on Verdant Lane and a lot falling in Minard Road (pictured below) – although they mainly landed in the street. Whilst this would have destroyed cars in 2021, this presumably wasn’t much of an issue in 1940.

While in the main, it was incendiary bombs that hit Hither Green, Lee and the Corbett Estate that night, there were a few high explosive bombs dropped too. The earliest was in Nightingale Grove at the junction with Maythorne Cottages (the eastern side of the ‘tunnel’ and current main entrance to Hither Green station.) It failed to explode, but the road was closed and, presumably, residents evacuated at around 10:00 pm. Three and a half years later, more or less the same location was hit by a V-1, causing several deaths and the destruction of a lot of homes.

Around 45 minutes later another one exploded at the junction of Mount Pleasant and Fordyce Roads causing a crater in the road and damaging the water supply.  Another unexploded high explosive bomb was reported at 59 St Mildred’s Road around 1:00 am, it was probably dropped earlier in the evening and the residents were evacuated.

The most destructive high explosive bomb was reported at 11:30 pm – at the junction of Dacre Park and Eton Grove, close to Lee Terrace.  Two houses were demolished and several others were damaged beyond repair.  Dacre Park was blocked for a while and four were reported as being injured. 

One of those injured was William John Sherriff, a 21-year-old merchant seaman from Port Talbot in South Wales; William was taken to Lewisham Hospital but died there the following day.

While of a similar size to the site from the Fernbrook Road V1 and several around Boone Street, the old Brough of Lewisham did not prefabs built on it; the site was cleared and flats built on it soon after the war, pictured below.

As noted earlier, Lewisham wasn’t the primary target of the raid – the bombers moved on towards central London where a high explosive bomb demolished the south and east sides of the Cloisters of St Stephen’s Chapel within the Houses of Parliament. The BBC buildings in Portland Place were badly damaged that night too.

Notes

  • In several locations the term ’many’ was used in the ARP log – this includes the both the eastern and western sides of Burnt Ash Road, Effingham Road (around the current Brindishe School), the eastern end of Burnt Ash. In these cases, I have assumed at least four incendiaries fell.  Some also aren’t exact – one group of four were noted as being on Micheldever between Wantage and Burnt Ash Roads.
  • The numbers are undoubtedly an underestimate – incendiary bombs that harmlessly fell in gardens or roads probably wouldn’t have been reported.

Credits

  • Most of the information for this post comes from the Lewisham ARP Log – it is a fascinating document, which is part of the collection of Lewisham Archives.
  • The postcard of Effingham Road is via eBay in February 2018
  • The maps are created via Google Maps

VE Day in Lee and Hither Green

Friday 8 May 2020 sees the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe, VE, Day and would have been celebrated both locally and nationally if these were normal times – it was to be one of the themes of the 2020 Hither Green Festival – maybe this will be re-visited later in the year.  We’ll look at what happened that day in 1945 with a local perspective.

After Berlin was surrounded by Allied forces and Hitler committed suicide on 30 April 1945, the end of the war was quite rapid.  A week later, on 7 May 1945 Germany accepted an unconditional surrender of German Forces in most of the areas that they still occupied in the Netherlands and northwest Germany and the surrender came into effect the following day.  A further surrender document was signed with the Russians on 8 May.

Running Past has covered many of the areas of the Home Front in recent months (for the 70th anniversary of war breaking out); the winding down of the Home Front was rapid in early May – public air raid shelters were closed down, as was the air raid warning system and plans were made for the return of evacuee children and mothers by the end of May (1).

Over a million people took to the streets on 8 May in celebration throughout Great Britain to mark the end of the European part of the war.  Many massed in central London, particularly in Trafalgar Square and up the Mall to Buckingham Palace as featured in the video footage (the sound levels are a bit variable, so beware!)

Many celebrated locally though; South Park Crescent (above and below) had been built as part of the Verdant Lane estate in the early 1930s and was the scene of a large party.  No doubt the celebrations were tempered there though by memories of 5 children from there and neighbouring streets who were amongst 38 children and 5 teachers who died at Sandhurst Road School.  There had also been a V-1 flying bomb that hit the junction of South Park and Further Green Road less than a year before at 16:48 on 12 July 1944 which injured 15 (3) –  several houses were destroyed and lots damaged – perhaps including the roofs of those pictured below).

In and around Hither Green, there were several other street parties including ones in The Woodlands and neighbouring Blashford Street.

Lee too saw several street parties, mainly in the working class streets.  Taunton Road had seen a lot of damage in the Blitz with several lives lost.  There was a posed picture probably taken close to the park entrance, the road in the background is Wantage Road.

Just around the corner in Brightfield Road (below) there was another street party in the part of the street that was built by John Pound and had originally been called Robertson Street.  As can be seen from the photograph, the party wasn’t  held there until early June 1945. 

Brightfield Road had seen some damage from the V-1 flying bomb that hit the junction of Lenham and Lampmead Roads.  In addition, there was Blitz damage to houses close to the bridge over the Quaggy, with several destroyed and several seriously damaged; along with three houses on the southern side of the bend which were damaged beyond repair (3).  The houses destroyed in Brightfield Road were never rebuilt, a new entrance to Manor House Gardens was created in their stead and those damaged beyond repair suffered a similar fate – they were to become an entrance to, what became after the war, Northbrook School and is now Holy Trinity

The street scene is now markedly different – the attractive bank buildings at the end of the street were lost after the war either to Penfold’s or Sainsbury’s expansion – more on the building another day, as there is an interesting story behind it.

While there were dozens of parties, as Lewis Blake noted, ‘for all the public display, it may be assumed that a majority of people stayed quietly at home.’ (4)

In addition to the celebration of the end of hostilities, there will have been a relief that bombing and rocket attacks were over – roads like Springbank, Taunton and Aislibie Roads had been badly affected by the Blitz, with V-1s hitting lots of local streets – including Nightingale Grove, (pictured below) Fernbrook Road, between Springbank and Wellmeadow Roads along with Leahurst Road, and as we’ve mentioned the Lenham/Lampmead junction.

A couple of days after VE Day, Lewisham was visited by the King and Queen who stopped in a packed town centre to survey the damage caused by the V-1 flying bomb from 10 months before (it’s at about 4:10 into the film, which is sadly silent).

Other than the rebuilding which was to continue for the best part of 20 years, the other element of wartime privations that was to linger on for almost another decade was rationing, which didn’t officially end for meat until 1954.

If you have personal or family local VE Day memories, please do post them either in the Facebook thread you reached this post from or in the comments below, if you haven’t commented here before, it may take a few hours for your comment to be approved.  I will hopefully add some of the comments into the main post.

In early May 2020 we don’t have the potential for street parties, but oddly, despite the lock down, we are probably contacting and seeing more of our neighbours than any of the generations since the end of World War Two. Every Thursday evening with the #ClapforCareWorkers most of our small street come out to clap and bang pots and pans; if we are typical, people often stay out in the street to chat, keeping social distancing, of course.  Neighbours are checking in with each other by phone with shopping bought for those having to stay at home.  Perhaps, for now at least, this is the World War Two type spirit we should embrace and celebrate, the parties will have to wait.

Notes

  1. Lewis Blake (1995) How We Went To War – Deptford & Lewisham 1939 -1945 p62
  2. From ARP Logs held at Lewisham Archives
  3. Laurence Ward (2015) The London County Council Bomb Damage Maps 1939-1945 p119
  4. Blake, op cit p66

Credits and Thanks

  • Thank you to Andy Wakeman and Clive Andrews for allowing the use of their family photographs of the South Park Road party – the photographs remain their families’ copyright;
  • The photgrpahs of Brightfield Road and Taunton Road are part of the collection of the Lewisham Archives, they are used with their permission and remain their copyright;
  • The photograph of the destruction on Nightingale Grove is from the collection of the Imperial War Museum – it is used here on a Non-Commercial Licence